Author Archives: James Brown

2013 Lunchtime Seminars on Negotiating Networks: Programme Available!

We are excited to announce our schedule of 2013 Lunchtime Seminars. Themed ‘Negotiating Networks: Six Case Studies’, the series brings together nine researchers from six projects bringing innovative digital techniques and fresh conceptual frameworks to bear on communities of association, especially of an epistolary flavour, from various time periods. Starting on Thursday 31 October (Week 3), seminars will take place every Thursday at 1pm throughout Michaelmas Term in the conference room of the Oxford e-Research Centre on Keble Road (with the exception of the session on 21 November, which will be held at St Anne’s College). And, as it’s lunchtime, sandwiches and refreshments will be provided free of charge to all attendees. All are welcome; hope to see you there!

New Correspondence Project: John Collins and Mathematical Culture in Restoration England

We are excited to report that Dr Jackie Stedall and Dr Philip Beeley, the latter a former Research Fellow on Cultures of Knowledge (where he worked on the letters of mathematician John Wallis), have been awarded a major AHRC grant for a new early modern correspondence project on ‘Mathematical Culture in Restoration England: The Life and Letters of John Collins’.

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Digital Prosopographies Workshop: Podcasts and Slides Now Available

Podcasts, slides, and brief write-ups from our recent workshop on Digital Prosopographies: Case Studies in Online Collective Biography (Monday 29 July, St Anne’s College, University of Oxford) are now available in our Resources section. Predicated on the idea that the insights and methodologies of prosopography – or, the ‘investigation of the… characteristics of a historical group’ – underpins much social network analysis, the event brought together eight European projects to explore case studies, standards, and best practices relating to the electronic capture and representation of people, biographies, social and professional relationships, and their underlying sources. Findings will feed into the development of a more sophisticated prosopographical toolset within Early Modern Letters Online and the development of a series of prosopographical visualizations, focusing in the first instance on the epistolary communities around Samuel Hartlib and Jan Amos Comenius, in 2014.

Join the Team: We’re Now Hiring a Hartlib Research Fellow and a Digital Project Manager!

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Deadline extended to Friday 23 August!


We’re excited to announce two full-time, fixed term job opportunities with the Project, available from 1 October 2013. Do you love early modern letters? Would you like to work for one of the University of Oxford’s largest and most exciting digital humanities enterprises? If so, read on…

Research Fellow: The Correspondence Network of Samuel Hartlib (c.1600-1662)

The first opening is for a Research Fellow (12 months) to work on the correspondence network of the seventeenth-century intelligencer Samuel Hartlib (c.1600-1662). Building on the findings of Dr Leigh Penman during the first phase of Cultures of Knowledge, and working closely with Professor Howard Hotson, our Comenius Research Fellow Iva Lelkova, and a Digital Humanities Research Fellow, the successful candidate will pay particular attention to the detailed prosopographical reconstruction of Hartlib’s epistolary community with a view to populating new biographical fields and relationships within Early Modern Letters Online. For further details of this post and to apply online, head along to the University job site.

Digital Project Manager

The second opening is for a Digital Project Manager (15 months) to coordinate all aspects of the Project and to run its diverse international team of editors, research fellows, and systems developers. Reporting to Project Director Professor Howard Hotson, and supported by a part-time administrator, the successful candidate will make sure all aspects of Cultures of Knowledge are delivered on time, to spec, and on or under budget, with particular reference to the ongoing development and population of Early Modern Letters Online. They will also take a lead on all Project reporting (narrative and financial); event planning and delivery; and marketing and dissemination (both online and offline). For further details of this post and to apply online, head along to the University job site.

The closing date for both positions is noon on Friday 23 August. We have other posts in the offing; to stay informed of these, please sign-up to the blog’s RSS Feed, Follow Us on Twitter, or join our Mailing List. If you have any queries about the above positions, e-mail, or call +44(0)1865 615026. We look forward to hearing from you!

20,000 Dutch Letters Now Online: CKCC Launch the ePistolarium

Our great friends and colleagues at Circulation of Knowledge and Learned Practices in the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Republic (CKCC), based at Huygens ING, have just launched their virtual research environment for Dutch scientific correspondences, the wonderful ePistolarium. This major new resource contains metadata on and full texts of around 20,000 letters sent to and from nine seventeenth-century scholars (including René Descartes, Constantijn and Christiaan Huygens, and Antoni van Leeuwenhoek), and is equipped with faceted search, a neat visualization suite (results can be displayed on timelines, maps, and as both correspondent and co-citation network diagrams), as well as some bleeding edge techniques in corpus linguistics such as named entity recognition and topic modelling. Check it out!

The ePistolarium was launched in the magnificent Gertrudiskapel in Utrecht on 13 June 2013, and, alongside presentations from its creators (and a terrific video), our very own Howard Hotson was on hand to celebrate this new tool and to consider its relationship to Early Modern Letters Online as well as its significance to scholarship on correspondences more broadly (a video of his talk, entitled ‘The ePistolarium and the Digital Republic of Letters: The Circulation of Knowledge and Learned Practices in the Twenty-First Century’, is above). Indeed, these are exciting times for the Digital Republic of Letters in general and the relationship between our two initiatives in particular; we’re going to share metadata, are co-applicants with other interested parties on major funding proposals to COST and Digging into Data, and will be sharing the stage at several forthcoming events, most imminently (with Antony McKenna) at our panel on ‘Electrifying the Republic of Letters’ at Intellectual Networks in the Long Seventeenth Century at Durham next week. Congratulations to Charles, Guido, Walter, Wijnand, and the rest of the CKCC team!

Tangents and Taverns: John Wallis and The Case of the Vintners in Oxford, 1674

John Wallis (1616–1703) is best known to early modern intellectual historians and fans of Cultures of Knowledge as an archetypal Republic of Letters polymath; Oxford’s Savilian Professor of Geometry, a gifted cryptographer, and keeper of the University Archives who corresponded extensively with the leading continental luminaries of the age. The letters reproduced in Volume IV of The Correspondence of John Wallis (OUP), to which our Research Fellow Philip Beeley is putting the finishing touches, largely reinforce this impression. The missives find the mathematician embroiled in abstruse conversations with Francis Jessop, Christiaan Huygens, Rasmus Bartholin, and Leibniz about methods of tangents, the rectification of the cycloid, and the reinvigoration of scientific meetings at the Royal Society. However, I was intrigued when Philip told me that many of the letters in this volume reveal that in early 1674 Wallis was sucked into an epistolary controversy of an altogether more worldly kind: a bitter dispute over an Oxford tavern.

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Open-Sourcing EMLO-Edit: Code for our Editorial Interface Now Available on GitHub!


We are pleased to report that the complete code base of EMLO-Edit, the editorial interface for all of the metadata underlying Early Modern Letters Online, is now freely available for reuse on GitHub. Built from scratch by our Founding Developer Sue Burgess from Bodleian Digital Library Systems and Services (BDLSS), EMLO-Edit is a powerful, user-friendly editorial environment for describing, tagging, and managing letter records, including facilities for uploading images, dealing with people and places, merging duplicate records and metadata, user management, full version histories, and exports. The resulting data provides an ideal basis for front end applications in a variety of languages (we’ve used Python/Pylons but you could also develop, say, a Rails application). The code is ready for deployment, and includes full installation instructions for setting up a working version on your own servers; we will be adding a bit more documentation on how to customize the code for your own purposes, but in the meantime grab it while it’s hot, and let us know if you make use of it!

Detail from Portrait of Cornelis de Bie at age 81, by Hendrik Frans Diamaer. 1695–1726, engraving (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).

Intellectual Networks in the Long Seventeenth Century: Booking Open

Booking is open for Intellectual Networks in the Long Seventeenth Century, a conference taking place at Durham University on 30 June2 July 2013 under the auspices of Durham’s Centre for Seventeenth-Century Studies. The event explores the many novel varieties of intellectual exchange which emerged across Europe and the Atlantic world during the early modern period, and in particular promises to be 2013’s foremost feast of learned epistolarity. Among several great-looking sessions on correspondence, our very own Howard Hotson will be delivering a keynote talk on ‘Electrifying the Via Lucis: Communications Technologies and Republics of Letters, Past, Present and Future’, while we will be participating on a panel entitled ‘Electrifying the Republic of Letters’ with our good friends Professor Antony McKenna from St Etienne (Correspondance de Pierre Bayle) and Professor Charles van den Heuvel from Huygens ING (Circulation of Knowledge and Learned Practices in the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Republic). Further details and programme on the conference webpage, while here’s the booking form. Hope to see you there!

Bess of Hardwick’s Letters Now Online

Bess of Hardwick’s Letters: The Complete Correspondence c.1550-1608 has recently gone online. Created by the AHRC Letters of Bess of Hardwick Project, led by Dr Alison Wiggins (University of Glasgow), this wonderful new digital edition makes freely available full texts of all 234 letters to and from Bess – one of Elizabethan England’s most famous figures – alongside colour images of 185 missives (with transcription facilities), contextualised by extensive commentaries on Bess and on the material and linguistic characteristics of early modern English correspondence that are alone worth the price of admission. Alison discusses the creation of this extraordinary resource in this super talk from our 2012 seminar series. Congratulations, Alison and team!

CofK Spin-Off Site: The Travel Journal of Martin Lister

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Our former Martin Lister Research Fellow Anna Marie Roos has recently launched a small but perfectly formed spin-off site Every Man’s Companion, or An Useful Pocket-Book: The Travel Journal of Dr Martin Lister (1639-1712). Funded by a British Academy small grant, the site brings to life the notes kept in an almanac by Lister during a medical peregrination to Montpellier in 1663, and includes the text of the journal (rendered as a blog); supporting material from Lister’s memoirs and correspondence; a cross-referenced index of people, places, and books; and some sumptuous photographs taken by Anna Marie when she retraced Lister’s steps in the summer of 2011. Anna Marie discusses the project in this paper delivered at our 2011 conference Intellectual Geography: Comparative Studies, 1500-1750.